Michelle M. Sands, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Special Education


Special and Early Education (SEED)


  • Ph.D., University of Illinois, Special Education
  • M.A., North Central College, Educational Leadership with Principalship
  • Ed, Elmhurst University, Early Childhood and Special Education


Michelle Sands, Ph.D., completed her doctorate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2021 with a specialization in early childhood special education. She has spent most of the past 20 years in the field of early childhood education, working as a paraprofessional, blended classroom teacher, curriculum specialist, professional development specialist and assistant principal. Dr. Sands has worked in a variety of early childhood settings, including public schools, private childcare programs, Head Start programs and museum settings. Before her work at NIU, she spent two years as an assistant professor in the Department of Special and Early Childhood Education at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

Research Interests

Dr. Sands’ research interests include exploring the alignment and continuity of practices used to support children with disabilities and their families, specifically those that occur during the preschool and kindergarten years. She has a passion for learning about, and supporting, family participation in the education and special education processes of their children.. She has published articles in early childhood and special education journals on the topics of transition to kindergarten; parent and practitioner coaching; and cultural adaptations of interventions.


  • SESE 423/523 – Observation and Assessment in Early Childhood Special Education
  • SESE 424/524 – Methods and Strategies for Promoting Development and Teaching Infants, Toddlers and Young Children with Disabilities and Special Needs
  • SESE 426/526 – Working with and Supporting Families of Young Children with Disabilities and Special Needs


Journal Articles 

Meadan, H., Chung, M., Sands, M., & Snodgrass, M. (2019). The cascading coaching model for supporting service providers, caregivers, and children. Journal of Special Education, 54(2), 113–125. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022466919884070

Chung, M., Meadan, H., Snodgrass, M., Hacker, R., Sands, M., Adams, N., & Johnston, S. (2020). Assessing the social validity of a telepractice training and coaching intervention. Journal of Behavioral Education, 29, 382-408. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10864-020-09372-8

Frantz, R., Douglas, S., Meadan, H., Sands, M., Bhana, N., & D’Agostino, S. (2020). Exploring the professional development needs of early childhood paraeducators and supervising teachers. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education. https://doi.org/10.1177/0271121420921237

Daczewitz, M., Meadan, H., Swanson, T., & Sands, M. (2020). Introducing preservice teachers to family-centered practices: A scoping review. Journal of Education and Training Studies. https://doi.org/10.11114/jets.v8i11.5003

McLeod, R., Hardy, J., & Sands, M.M. (2021). Preparation of early childhood special education personnel: Alignment with recommended practices. Early Childhood Education Journal. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-021-01242-w

Chung, M.Y., Lee, J.D., Meadan, H., Sands, M.M., & Haidar, B.S. (2021). Building professionals’ capacity: The cascading coaching model. Journal of Positive Behavioral Interventions. https://doi.org/10.1177/10983007211039295

Sands, M.M., Monda-Amaya, L., & Meadan, H. (2021). Kindergarten redshirting: Implications for children with disabilities. Disabilities, 1(1), 30-46. https://doi.org/10.3390/disabilities1010003

Sands, M. M., & Meadan, H. (2021). A successful kindergarten transition for children with disabilities: Collaboration throughout the process. Early Childhood Education Journal. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-021-01246-6

Sands, M. M., Meadan, H., Ramos-Torres, S., & Fanta, A. (2021). The cultural and linguistic adaptation of a caregiver-implemented naturalistic communication intervention. Early Childhood Education Journal. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10643-021-01280-4

Kossyvaki, L., Meadan, H., Cristescu, L., Alharbi, H., Sands, M. M., & Tuite, D. (2022). Telepractice parent-implemented training and coaching in rural areas in the UK: impact on children with autism and their mothers. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rasd.2022.102044 

Meadan, H. Lee., J., Sands, M.M., Chung, M.Y., & Garcia-Grau, P. (2022). The Coaching Fidelity Scale (CFS): Development and evaluation of an observational measure of coaching fidelity. Infants & Young Children. 10.1097/IYC.0000000000000231

Meadan, H., Sands, M.M., & Chung, M.Y. (2023). Parent-implemented telepractice autism intervention: A case study of maintenance and generalization. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 20(3): 1685. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph20031685

Sands, M.M., & Meadan, H. (2023). Transition to kindergarten for children with disabilities: Parent and kindergarten teacher perceptions and experiences. Topics in Early Childhood Special Educationhttps://doi.org/10.1177/02711214221146748

Sands, M. M., McGuire, S., Meadan, H., DiPietro-Wells, R. & Hacker, R. (2023). Perceptions and experiences of military families who have children with disabilities and early intervention service providers that serve them. Early Childhood Research Quarterly. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2023.01.013

Lee, J. D., Meadan, H. Sands, M.M., Terol, A. K., Martin, M., & Yoon, C. D. (2023). The Cultural Adaptations Checklist (CAC): Quality indicators for cultural adaptation of intervention and practice. International Journal of Developmental Disabilities. 1876https://doi.org/10.1080/20473869.2023.2176966 

Chapters in an Edited Book

Sands, M. M., & McGuire, S. (2023). Setting the stage for the future: Family engagement throughout the transition to kindergarten. In M.M. Musyoka & G. Shen (Eds.), Meaningful and active family engagement: IEP, transition and technology integration in special education (pp. 187-208). IGI Global. DOI: 10.4018/979-8-3693-1384-8


Sands, M. M. (2020). Examples of collaborations supporting inclusion in Illinois. Early CHOICES and Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities. https://www.eclre.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/final-report-to-ICDD-3.27.2020.pdf 

Kremer, A. & Sands, M. M. (2021). Together we can all make inclusion work: An Illinois early childhood professional development provider community of practice. https://www.eclre.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/COP-PD-Inclusion3.25.22.pdf 


Gabel 162D